The wakeboard community is tight but it offers us a luxury that few other sports do – unparalleled access to speak, socialise and ride with the some of the biggest and most talented professional riders. With the passing of each year, I look back upon my season and am amazed at the contact average riders like myself can have with top athletes in the sport.
Networking into this community and gaining access to pro riders is easier than you might think – if you know where to look. Boat shows, clinics & demos, and riding trips to Orlando all bring with them opportunities to be a part of the community and learn from the best.
The winter season brings with it boat shows in every region of the country. Pro riders are often brought in to draw crowds and to represent their sponsors. The interactions these boat shows bring are much more than meet-and-greet or autograph sessions. These are great opportunities to ask questions and gain insight from riders that use the gear and boats daily.
Pros at boat shows are able to take true one-on-one time to understand your experience level or specific needs and make recommendations on your set-up, boat and riding. Making connections with pros and dealers at these shows can also help you learn about in-season clinics and demos, where you can put some of that new equipment to use.
Clinics and demos are the easiest way to ride with and learn from the pros. These events, sponsored by manufacturers, dealers and pro shops across the country are so numerous that there are bound to be several each summer within your reach. Where else can you spend a day on the water with your favourite rider, test new equipment and get tips to improve your bag of tricks?
To maximize your experience at a clinic remember one thing – you are there to learn. At clinics you are the student, not the exhibitionist, and your mindset will often determine what you get out of it.
A big bonus is that clinics are also the best way to meet other riders in your area that share a passion for wakeboarding. To this day I ride with two guys that I met at a Liquid Force demo featuring Ben Greenwood. At the time I didn’t have my own boat, and those two guys kept me on the water for years. I’ve even taken riding trips to Florida with those guys, which opens up a whole other world of access into the wakeboard community.
Whatever the time of year, if you’ve got the means, hop a plane to Orlando to ride. The different environment, famous riding sites and top-level instruction will have you pumped to learn. The last time I went to Orlando it took me all of six minutes to find my first pro, when I ended up cruising on the airport monorail next to Dallas Friday.
From the cable park to the numerous camps available, Orlando offers a bounty of opportunities to ride with and meet the pros. A trip to Shaun Murray’s Boarding School can have you gaining tips from four or five pros in a matter of a few days. Each one offering a myriad of experience and specific tips to take your riding to the next level.
The highlight of my last trip to Orlando was when I found Scott Byerly preparing the rails of The Projects for his annual Toe Jam contest. We spoke one-on-one for 20 minutes about some of the greatest historical moments in our sport. The best part of that meeting was that I truly felt that he enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. That type of pure access to the pros simply cannot be found in other sports.
Riders, regardless of ability level, all share a common passion for being on the water and trying new things. This passion carries with it a community spirit and desire to spread the sport and assist others. Pro riders today largely recognize that they are lucky to be in the position that they are in, riding for a living, and are happy to help those of us with average ability.
It’s easy to tap into this wakeboard community and network with the same talent you are viewing in magazines or in the latest videos. So get out there and take part in all the events and promotions wakeboarding offers – you’ll be amazed at who you’ll end up riding with.